July 10, 2018

Justice Kennedy has made three extraordinary decisions that will leave a legacy that has literally changed American society forever: The Right of Gay couples to be married, the Citizen’s United and the decision to retire during the Trump Presidency. The decisions on the Constitutional Right of Gay people to marriage certainly changed society and the concept of Gay marriage seems accepted by most of our society. However, no Constitutional Right will be safe under a Trump appointed Court.

Citizens United effectively ended democracy in the United States through the widespread corruption of politics. There is an argument the Russians and a terrible Hillary campaign had more to do with Trump being elected than big money contributions, but the net effect of Citizens has been to enable corporations to determine who the candidates will be in any major election. This is especially true since Kennedy helped other Conservatives to end the Union Movement and gut anti-trust safeguards. For decades, Conservatives have railed against “judicial activism” but the present SCOTUS has ignored numerous, long-standing legal precedents mostly in cases involving the rights of women and of Labor.

The worse effect of Kennedy will be the calculated decision to allow Trump – someone who has no respect for the rule of law – to appoint the next Justice and guarantee an activist, reactionary Court for decades. Trump has already promised to only appoint Anti-Choice candidates. The nibbling around the corners of the Roe v Wade decision has been ongoing for decades, but the fundamental Right has been affirmed. This SCOTUS has already shown an activist willingness to ignore decades of legal precedent to effect their conservative agenda, they will have no problem going right at Roe.

Don’t look to Dems to prevail in the fight to delay the vote on a replacement until after November. The GOP will drag it out as long as they can to continue to motivate their base, but in the end, they will confirm a reactionary Justice before November. Trump will have at least two Justices that will have pledged loyalty to him, in the event of any challenge to the Mueller Investigation. The lasting legacy of Justice Kennedy will be the catastrophe he has been for our democracy and basic Rights.


Political Theater as a Distraction

August 24, 2015

When the infamous “Citizens United” case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, many people felt that it spelled doom to democracy in the U.S. They were right. Much of the angst was focused on the absurd notion that corporations had the same rights as individual Americans (they have no conscience, no beliefs, no feelings, no desires).

This was a legal fiction not imbedded in the Constitution (who thinks that “We the People…” meant corporations, businesses too?), but created by pro-corporation Supreme Court Justices. This gave corporations all of the rights as citizens, but none of the accountability (when was the last time a corporation was put in jail for committing a crime?). Others focused on the notion of money as speech, another absurd notion. Money buys speech, and it also suppresses speech as well. I think this was the far more insidious aspect of that decision, and we are witnessing the malignant effects in the current primary season.

The Trump candidacy on the surface is a distraction, but it may unintentionally serve notice to how fixed the system has become. Of course it is a distraction from real policy discussions. Anyone who saw the Fox Cable “debate” know they didn’t see a debate between candidates on policy issues, but rather a series of “gotcha” questions. It was like watching someone with lighter fluid spraying coals here and there hoping that the fire catches on eventually. Once Rand Paul flamed out, why not incite Ted Cruz? The media love Citizens United because the costs of advertising is way up as different campaigns compete for the premium and limited air time. For the media it’s like a six month long Super Bowl as far as advertising dollars.

The race to the rhetorical bottom distracts us from the ultimate issue — that whoever is nominated to run for president it will be the choice of a dozen or so billionaires, guaranteeing their positions will be protected. Look at the policy positions of every GOP candidate and Hillary Clinton as far as economic restructuring. There is no daylight between their positions. Only the rhetoric camouflaging the similarities.

These few men are being called the “Donor Class,” and they now control this country. No one can be nominated without the approval of the Donor Class. Maybe someone like Trump can make a run without them, but ultimately, he will need their approval and money to run in the general election. The Donor Class will never allow someone like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren become close to the White House, and even if they did, the Donor Class would use their money to elect legislatures to obstruct any attempt to address economic injustice.

Do you think I am being too cynical? I would like to hear a rebuttal. Someone please give me some evidence or reason to hope otherwise…


January 13, 2015

Guns have one purpose. To kill.

Four years ago, Representative Gabby Gifford was shot in the head while preparing to give a talk in her hometown. Twelve people were killed in Paris for drawing “offensive” satirical cartoons. Two years ago nearly two dozen children were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Only a year or so before that, a lunatic killed a dozen movie goers in Colorado. It goes on, and on, and on, and on…

Incredibly, the news coverage of these regularly occurring massacres never assesses the deluge of guns in America as a contributing factor. The media doesn’t even explore or report on why we, Americans, mindlessly encourage easy access to guns, or why we are the only country in the world that does so.

And today – right now – there is a bill waiting to be signed by Rick Snyder that will further loosen gun laws in the state of Michigan – because we obviously need looser gun regulations amid the gun violence, don’t we?

This bill would make it possible for people who have been charged with stalking to have a concealed weapons permit, and thus, keep a gun on their person. This means anyone who has a PPO against them could get a gun. The stalkers lobby must be really strong in Michigan.

The bill also shortens the waiting time to get a gun. In the past, people had to go through a background check and get fingerprinted. Sometimes it would take up to 60 days or more for the background check to be cleared. Isn’t that good?

Under the new law, the application process will only be allowed to take 45 days. If the background check isn’t done by then, the applicant will get a temporary permit regardless.

This means that ANYONE — criminals, the insane, lunatics — will be able to get a gun because the bureaucracy may take too long to issue a decision. And the legislature has provided no new funds to speed up the process.

Our bureaucracy takes long to do anything. Look at the thousands of rape kits that haven’t been processed in the city of Detroit. Where is the money going to come from now to pay for this new expedited gun permit process??

Everything costs, everything takes time, but because gun manufacturers want as many people as possible to have guns, our Republican lawmakers are only too happy to oblige.

Does this make sense? Are we crazy?

The only good news is that Snyder hasn’t signed the bill. Yet. Perhaps, if any sense is left in our Republican dominated state, this bill will be left to die. Common sense would dictate that it never sees the light of day. However, if I have learned anything over the last 64 years, it’s that when it comes to guns, America has no common sense.

Supreme Ruling

August 9, 2014

Just months before members of the Michigan Supreme Court are up for re-election, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that provided corporations a billion dollar bonanza. The 4-3 ruling on the application of the Corporate Tax Rule will result in at least a $1 billion refund to corporations doing business in Michigan, at a critical cost to Michigan citizens.

Not that the ruling should be considered a quid-pro-quo bribe. That is almost always impossible to prove without one of the guilty parties admitting it. Rather it was more like a wink and timely gift to their major money contributors to re-election. Their record of rulings speaks for itself: Corporations win virtually every case that comes before them (90% rulings in favor of corporate interests).

The contributions also speak for themselves: the vast amounts of money contributed by corporate representatives such as the Michigan Chamber of Commerce to re-elect the same Republican activist judges.

Everyone in the legal profession knows this reality: there is a bias against individual plaintiffs in favor of corporate defendants in the Michigan courts. The cases we take are affected by this realization. Even jury verdicts against corporations are never considered sacrosanct, as they have in the past and in other States. It’s just that seldom has a ruling that so profoundly hurts the entire State of Michigan been timed so suspiciously as this. It’s seldom been so apparent that the bent of this Supreme Court is pro-corporation even if it means betraying their political base.

Maybe it will be enough for Republican Gov. Snyder to begin to appoint judges that can restore balance and integrity to the courts.


Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

July 9, 2014

Some of you may remember the old Monty Python skit. A man is being given the third degree about something minor when, out of exasperation, he says “Well, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!” Then suddenly a group of men dressed in red cleric robes burst through the door and says “NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

Well, life imitates art sometimes and here we are with the Catholics on the Supreme Court enforcing their religious beliefs on all Americans in the Hobby Lobby case. Make no mistake, the Catholic Church bans the use of contraceptives and the Conservative men on the Supreme Court are intent on enforcing their church’s doctrine in law — so much for separation of church and state.

Justice Scalia has made no secret of his opinion that his religious beliefs should directly affect his rulings, though the other Catholic men are a bit more circumspect.

The Hobby Lobby decision was wrong on many levels and the logic so obviously contrary – and dangerous – to virtually any laws banning discrimination, that Alito went out of his way to say that the decision was a one-time, limited decision (remember Bush v. Gore?). Conservatives hailed the decision as a blow for religious freedom.

The owners of Hobby Lobby consider forms of contraceptives that terminate conception as violating their religious rights so egregiously that it made it an irresolvable crisis of conscience (although they did invest their tax shelter profits in companies that make the “abortion pill”). Historically, religious beliefs have been the rationale for Jim Crow laws and discrimination against any number of groups (including Catholics). That is why allowing one religious group to discriminate is so dangerous.

The truth is that the Catholic men of the Supreme Court are better described as Ayatollahs issuing religious rulings on secular political matters. They ignore the Constitutional mandate separating church from state, let alone legal precedent.

Unlike the Monty Python skit, this is no comedy.

Justice and Justices

March 13, 2014

There is a minor rebellion brewing in the Democratic Party over judges nominated for lifetime appointments to the federal courts. At first glance you would have to scratch your head over the nomination of Michael Boggs, a man with as despicable a history on civil rights as any Jim Crow era politician. This is Obama’s nominee? The constitutional law attorney, an African-American? That’s the best he can do? 

The fact is that he is one of four GOP nominees that Obama has had to accept in order to gain approval of numerous other nominees immorally (if not illegally) being held up by the GOP. It’s a devil’s bargain that should be resisted, even if it does mean that a crisis in the federal system results. Maybe I am becoming a nihilist, but it might be better to have no judges than prejudiced ones. It might be better to let the system break down in crisis than to compromise justice. The legislative branch is all but broken now, and the cancer that is the Tea Party conservative movement is metastasizing into the courts. Maybe it’s time to draw a line, and justice is a good place to start.    


Trials: Every Verdict Tells a Story

March 13, 2014

I am in the process of trying a case in Wayne County Circuit Court on behalf of a little girl who was forced to be born in a jail cell because her mother was imprisoned and denied necessary medical care by a local hospital. As I was taking the drive to court this morning I heard a radio report of a hunger strike among prisoners in California protesting that state’s practice of condemning large number of prisoners to solitary confinement. That state already is under a court order to relieve massive overcrowding. I wonder how it is that we have become a country that imprisons more people than any other nation in the world.  

In Michigan, one of the largest segments of employment, especially in the Upper Peninsula, is corrections. In a state with more prisons than some countries have, more prisons are being built. If one were to base a guess on what is happening with the prison system based on who is there, one could say that our country has decided to imprison African-American males as a social policy, and the mentally ill, and non-violent drug users. 

Violent crime is at an historic low, yet our prison population is at an historic high. I wonder if imprisonment has become the default setting on a society that refuses to address the social problems that require more effort and long-term investment. Just like the medical and prison staff who turned their eyes away from a woman and child in need, as a society we turn our eyes away from those in need: the mentally ill and homeless, the impoverished, the marginalized in our society. 

Or when we can’t avert our eyes, we imprison them. 


Stand Your Ground: Dunn Verdict

February 24, 2014

If justice had been done, then Michael Dunn should have been convicted of first degree murder, but in Florida and other “stand your ground” law States it is virtually impossible to get a murder conviction. Some of the jury in the Dunn case followed the law and that’s the problem: stand your ground laws create an impossible burden to prove first degree murder based on evidence alone.   Especially when a white kills a black.

First degree murder in the Dunn trial was proper because in Florida the intent to kill can be formed between the first and second shots. Dunn fired 10 times at a car moving away from him over a space of 4-5 seconds. He basically emptied his gun at a car driving away from him. The problem is that the “stand your ground” laws provides only a subjective test of the fear of imminent death for a shooter. In other words, it is not necessary for a person who kills someone else to make a decision that a reasonable person would have done in similar circumstances. It is not necessary to have any reasonable basis to believe anyone is a threat. All a murderer like Dunn has to say is that he really felt threatened, whether there was objective reason to feel threatened or not.

In Florida, the subjective standard of a perceived threat was adopted after testimony like the following:  One woman asked Legislators why she would have to wait until someone attempts to rape her before she is able to kill them? Her point was that if she feels some guy wants to rape her (whether there is any reasonable basis for that belief or not), she should be free to legally shoot him dead. In Florida, and many other States, that sounded logical and reasonable to Legislators dependent on NRA approval ratings and contributions.

As a father of two young children of race, I certainly understand the fear and outrage of African-American parents. “Stand your ground” laws have not reduced crime. They have not reduced homicides or attempted homicides – in fact they have increased homicides in the States that have adopted this law. The law is nothing more than a declaration of open season on African Americans, who are routinely misperceived as a “threat” by white people.

Stand your ground is a license for whites to murder blacks.  Period.

Supreme Test

May 12, 2010

More than a few people have been arguing that the current Supreme Court has been stacked by the Republicans with Judges who consider the Constitution as a tool to expand and empower the rights of business corporations over the rights of individuals (Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Roberts). The evidence is supported by recent decisions that enable corporations to discriminate against women, and to permit unlimited funding of campaigns by corporations. Whereas the U.S. Constitution was once considered a shield for the rights of the people from the powerful, it is now being bent to undermine individual freedoms whenever those rights conflict with the profits of business.

This makes the nomination of Elana Kagan as the next Supreme Court Justice a vital matter to anyone who cares about liberty. Consider the events of the last 2 weeks: an ecological disaster caused by a corporation that was allowed to protect their profits at the expense of our safety, and a cyber-theft on Wall St. that created a few multimillionaires in less than a minute while wiping out the pensions and savings of thousands. BP is now venue shopping in Texas, where judges have been elected by the contributions of Oil Companies – a clear example of how corporate money is expected to buy justice. The robber-barons on Wall St. will continue to make money by betting against the same stocks they sell us.

The system has become so unjust and unfair that it is threatening our democracy. What will happen when ordinary people, individual citizens, know they can never get justice in the courtroom because judges are protecting the interests of the rich and powerful? That’s not what our Founding Father’s intended, and it’s not the way the Constitution should be interpreted.

The only question that Ms. Kagan should be asked is “do you believe the Constitution provides the same protections to inanimate objects (such as multinational corporations) as it does to individual US citizens? Do you believe that the Constitution seek to protect the rights of the individual from the rich and powerful?”

Justice Roam Polanski Style

May 6, 2010

If the US is asking for the extradition of Roman Polanski, why is the government not asking for the extradition of Cardinal Bernard Law or Pope Benedict XVI? If we consider it important enough to seek extradition of a man responsible for the rape of a child, why are we not asking for the extradition of men who were responsible for allowing the rapes of tens of thousands of children?

Bernard Law was Cardinal of the archdiocese of Boston and had actual knowledge of pedophile priests responsible for the rapes of hundreds of children. He protected the pedophiles from the law and allowed them to be transferred to other duties and other opportunities to rape more children. Cardinal Law beat it to the Vatican literally moments before being served with a subpoena for Grand Jury testimony by the Massachusetts State Police. He claims diplomatic immunity and refuses to submit to justice.

Pope Benedict XVI while Bishop received complaints of child abuse by priests, but his office never responded to the complaints or contacted the police. His supporters claim that he never PERSONALLY saw any of these complaints and was unaware of them. However, as Cardinal Ratzinger before becoming pope, he insisted that ALL cases of sexual abuse be reported to him and only to him. Now stories are emerging about the direct role the Pope played in covering up the crimes and enabling the sexual abuse by pedophiles.

In Britain, there is a movement to serve the Pope with a writ (the equivalent of a subpoena). We should do the same.

Perhaps Roam Polanski should have fled to the Vatican rather than Switzerland, where he would only be one more pedophile among many…